2023.08.17 - Voyage up the River Colne

The weather for 15th & A6th August looked to be suitable for a sail and the wind and tides indicated that plan A would be a sail up the river Colne as far as I could get with an overnight in North Geedon Creek next to Rat Island.

I drove down to the mooring on the morning of the 14th and arrived soon after High Water which meant that I didn't have to wade through any mud or drag the dinghy a long way down the hard. It was quite windy and once I had the dinghy launched and loaded and the car in the carpark, I rowed out to Naiad but slowly so that I didn't get lots of water splashing into the dinghy form the waves caused by the strong wind.

One on Naiad I had to bail out a fair bit of water since the bungee I had used to support the cockpit cover didn't and a large puddle had formed due to the rain and this slowly leaked into the boat.

I unloaded the dinghy and packed things away in Naiad and prepared her as much as I could for the early morning start.

I awoke at 03:30 long before my alarm went off but got up anyway and found the first problem. The ship's battery was flat and I had no lights. Using a torch I got up and dressed and then unscrewed the wires to the ship's battery and connected them to the Eco Power Max portable power bank that I bring along to Naiad these days. Switching the power bank on I had lights again. Which is just as well since as it was dark I needed to have the navigation lights turned on when sailing.

Having made some tea in my travel mug I carried out the few remaining tasks to get Naiad ready to sail and cast off.

The trip out through the channel was uneventful and I soon found myself sailing along with the light wind behind and heading for the River Colne.

The sunrise over Brightlingsea was quite spectacular and definitely worthy of a photo or two.

At this point I still had an hour of ebb so I was on time to get to the mouth of the River Colne as the tide turned.

This is Stone Point on Mersea Island and beyond it lies the Pyefleet Channel or just The Pyefleet.

Stone Point again but this time as we pass by.

You can see the power station in this photo I took in the daylight. The cabin is a bit of a mess at this point since I’d just stowed all the things I leave in the cockpit overnight willy nilly and without much thought of tidiness. Not at stupid o'clock in the morning anyway !

This is the entrance to the Pyefleet and there are usually a number of boats anchored here and it is quite usual to see one or more of the traditional local boats here. This is one of the Thames Barges.

Oddly enough, there do not seem to be any photos of the North Geedon Creek, or not that I can find so once I was anchored here I decided to take a few so that others might be able to find them. The above is looking down the creek shortly before Low Water.

Rat Island and the sloping mud here would not be a very comfortable place to beach.

The sloping mud from Rat Island extends a long way up.

This is the entrance to the creek and you can see that there are two flat shelves of mud off Rat Island, one higher than the other and these would be good for beaching. The yellow buoy in the entrance to the creek has a warning on it saying that access is prohibited 200m up the creek. This is probably due to the firing range on the other side of the creek.

A better view of the higher mud plateau.

A close up of the narrow entrance of the creek which would be difficult to navigate in the dark and at low water. So I decided to get out of the creek about three hours before Low Water as going aground on a falling tide would not be a good idea.

Another look at the setting sun.

I got up at just after midnight, a short while before High Water, to check that the anchor was holding and that I had plenty of scope out on the chain. It was and I did. At that time the wind was blowing straight down the creek and out into the River Colne and I went back to bed satisfied. But when I got up at 03:00 the wind had dropped to virtually nothing. Still I had to get out of the creek so I upped anchor and let the ebb take the boat out into the Colne. 

By the way, the mud at the bottom of the channel is a bit like thick cream for a few inches so when you pull the chain up the part that lies on the bottom doesn't, it lies under the mud and it is very messy retrieving the anchor. Having a wet mop to hand is must to clean the mud off your hands before returning to the cockpit!

Once out into the river I hoisted the main and staysail to catch what little wind there was and with the occasional stroke of the paddle we drifted and sailed down the river on the ebb.

The wind did strengthen a little as we got to the mouth of the Colne, enough to be able to sail at an angle to counter the ebb tide coming out from the River Blackwater and once clear of the mud banks I was able to set a course for West Mersea. The wind from the North was enough to push us along at 2.2 knots over the ground despite the contrary ebb tide.

As you can hear from the video I thought I was going to be arriving at the Besom Fleet too early to be able to get in due to the Low Tide, but as it happened, the wind dropped so we slowed down just being moved along by the flood tide. We arrived with enough water to get over the mud bank on back onto the mooring.

A great two day's sailing.

Definitely time for a cup of tea.